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Last Week’s WW: Finding A Story In A Universe

My new novel, Otherworlders, has a large cast. I’d say there are 6 main characters, 2 secondary characters, and around 5 supporting characters. I think that I executed it well. Or so I’ve been told.

A few things that I’ve learned writing ensemble casts:

Combine as many people as possible. It might sound strange to merge different characters into one, but I found that it works a lot easier than I thought it would. You might have two roles that can be filled by one person, say a security guard and leader of a revolution, maybe that’s the same guy?

Make certain that you aren’t duplicating any characters. Each character should be unique and add something. In my story, I accidentally had 2 leaders and a military consultant. Repetitive and unnecessary.

Also, be careful with showing/saying the same thing again and again. Yes, it might be new information for the specific character(s), but if the reader already knows it, then it doesn’t add anything. Everything a different character learns must enhance the story, not repeat it.

The final difficulty in using large casts is investment. People need to get to know the characters, root for them, feel an attachment to them. It’s very easy to skip this to make the story go quicker. It’s easy to switch POV and summarize instead of show. Which is not good. And, if you change POV a lot, then next thing you know, it’s four chapters + since a character has been seen and the reader has forgotten about them.

Hope these tips help you whenever you’re working with a big cast.